We need to treat broadband like a utility - President Kagame
President Paul Kagame speaking at the official closure of the two-day ‘Smart Rwanda Days’ forum held under the theme, Digitising Rwanda, in Kigali stressed that “We need to treat broadband like a utility we should avail and make affordable to as many people as we can.”
Rwanda hosts the second edition of SMART Days Rwanda as the country prepares to embark on the last five years of the 2020 vision and re-doubles efforts to achieve the transformation into a knowledge-based economy and society. The gathering aims at stimulating the debate on how Rwanda and Africa at large can leverage ICT to accelerate economic growth and competitiveness.
President Kagame has said that digital innovation has leveled the playing field, making it easy for anyone from anywhere can compete in the global economy. Speaking at an interactive session during the conclusion of the Smart Rwanda conference, President Kagame said digital innovation means ideas do not have borders and therefore countries cannot be landlocked : “We are making good progress. We should not take things for granted, we should continue working hard. Our thinking is about crossing borders while benefiting others and from others. We may act Rwandan but we think Africa and beyond.”
The Secretary General of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Dr Hamadoun Toure, echoed Kagame’s remarks on the progress made in recent years in ICT, saying that Africa was catching up with the rest of the world and that the next step would be building a knowledge-based society.
Toure, whose time at the helm of the UN agency ends later this year, said that during his two terms he had seen the continent transform in numerous ways thanks to ICT.
“We have the right resources, the younger generation who we believe in, and a framework that was established and detailed in the Smart Africa Manifesto,” Toure said.
Minister Nsengimana highlighted the importance of ICT in boosting the national GDP.
In Rwanda, ICT contribution to GDP during the last two quarters stood at 2%, ahead of agriculture and mining. In terms of foreign direct investments, the ICT sector has worked as a magnet, attracting 45% of the total in-flows which is more than the next 5 sectors combined, including trade, financial sector, mining and manufacturing. A recent study revealed that ICT contributes 3.7% in advanced economies whereas in Africa, ICT contribution to GDP is at a growing 1.1% on average.
President Kagame emphasized that broadband should be treated like a utility that should be availed and made affordable to as many people as possible and that Rwanda was looking for ways to increase affordability and ensure benefits.
Encouraging young people to take up entrepreneurial roles in the field on digital innovation, President Kagame said : “An entrepreneur is one that does not alleviate poverty but creates wealth because alleviating poverty is like treating a patient who stays in a condition between critical and death. There is a saying that this is Africa’s century. The question is why wasn’t last century Africa’s century ? I believe it has always been Africa’s day. It’s up to Africans to seize the day and make our aspirations a reality.”
President Kagame concluded by paying tribute to Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, who will soon be coming to the conclusion of his tenure, for his work as ITU Secretary General : “You have made every African proud”.